Foraging Wild Teas: New Jersey Redroot

During the last week of June, I discovered a single clump of an unfamiliar shrub.  After identifying it using a few reliable plant guides, I was confident that I'd located New Jersey Redroot (Ceanothus americanus), also called New Jersey Tea.  As the latter name suggests, the leaves of this shrub can be used to make a caffeine-free tea substitute -- a use reportedly popular during the Revolutionary War.

New Jersey Redroot

New Jersey Redroot is a small shrub, which I probably would have overlooked had it not been flowering when I passed it.  It prefers dry, sandy sites.

Flower clusters grow from the axils

The flowers are striking clusters of white that grow from the axils, where the leaves attach to the stem.  The related shrub Prairie Redroot (Ceanothus herbaceus) has flower clusters only at the ends of branches.

New Jersey Redroot leaf

The leaves have toothed margins and three prominent veins originating from the base.  The fresh leaves don't have a strong smell to my nose, but once dried they smell of green tea.  As I write this, I'm enjoying a cup of this wild brew.

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